The MEDA of Perseverance will help us understand how to prepare astronauts for the future of the Red Planet.
Time often plays a role in our daily plans. You can wear a light jacket when the forecast requires a cool breeze or slow down your travel plans due to an upcoming storm. NASA engineers use weather data to inform their plans, so they analyze the conditions of millions of miles Mars.
The Mars Environmental Analysis System (MEDA) aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover first went on for 30 minutes on Feb. 19, about a day after the rover touched the Red Planet. Around 8:25 p.m. PST the same day, the engineers received initial data from MEDA.
“After the nail-biting and landing phase, our MEDA team is looking forward to the first data to confirm that our instrument has landed safely,” said Jose Antonio Rodriguez Manfredi, MEDA Principal Investigator at the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB). ) at the Institut Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial in Madrid. “These were moments of great intensity and excitement. Finally, after years of work and planning, we received the first data report from MEDA. Our system was alive and sending its first meteorological data and images from SkyCam. “
MEDA weighs about 12 kilograms (5.5 kilograms) and contains a set of environmental sensors to record dust levels and six atmospheric conditions – wind (both speed and direction), pressure, relative humidity, air temperature, earth temperature and radiation (both of the Sun and space). The system wakes up every hour and after recording and storing data, it falls asleep regardless of the rover’s operations. The system records whether the rover is awake or not, both during the day and at night.
While the engineers received the first MEDA data points on Earth, the team compiled its first weather report from the Jezero crater on Mars.
The data show that it is just below minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 20 degrees Celsius) on the surface when the system started recording, and this temperature dropped to minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 25.6 degrees Celsius) within 30 minutes.
MEDA’s radiation and dust sensor showed that Jezero was experiencing a cleaner atmosphere than Gale Crater at the same time, about 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers), according to reports from the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) Curiosity rover located in Gale. And MEDA’s pressure sensors told engineers that the pressure on Mars was 718 pascals, well within the 705-735 pascal predicted by their models for that time on Mars.
Overcoming the atmospheric gap
Thanks to telescopes here on Earth and spacecraft orbiting Mars, scientists have a good understanding of the Red Planet’s climate and even some idea of the magnitude of dust storms in one Martian year (two Earth years). However, predicting the uplift and transport of dust or how small storms evolve into large ones surrounding the entire planet will be beneficial for future research and development missions.
Next year, MEDA will provide valuable information on temperature cycles, heat fluxes, dust cycles and how dust particles interact with light, ultimately affecting both temperature and weather. Equally important will be MEDA’s readings on the intensity of solar radiation, cloud formations and local winds, which could inform the design of the planned mission to return samples to Mars. In addition, the measurements will help engineers better understand how to prepare humans and habitats to cope with the conditions on Mars.
REMS aboard the rover Curiosity currently provides similar daily weather and atmosphere data. MEDA, conceived through international cooperation, is based on the autonomous tuning of the REMS meteorological station and offers several improvements. The system was provided by Spain and developed by CAB with a contribution from the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The US contributions were funded by the Game Change Program at NASA’s Space Technology Directorate.
With higher overall durability and additional temperature readings, MEDA can record temperatures at three atmospheric altitudes: 2.86 feet (0.84 meters), 4.76 feet (1.45 meters) and 98.43 feet (30 meters). ), in addition to the surface temperature. The system uses sensors on the body and mast of the rover and an infrared sensor capable of measuring a temperature almost 100 feet above the rover. MEDA is also recording the radiation budget close to the surface, which will help prepare for future Mars human exploration missions.
With MEDA meteorological reports, engineers now have atmospheric data from three different locations on the Red Planet – perseverance, curiosity and NASA’s InSight Lander, which hosts temperature and wind sensors for InSight (TWINS). The trio will provide a deeper understanding of Martian weather patterns, events and atmospheric turbulence that could affect planning for future missions. In the near future, MEDA information will help determine the best weather conditions for the helicopter flights of Mars ingenuity.
While ingenuity reaches pre-flight stages, a MEDA report from the 43rd and 44th Martian days, or solos, from the mission (April 3-4 on Earth) shows a high temperature of minus 7.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 22 degrees Celsius). Celsius) and low from minus 117.4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 83 degrees Celsius) in Lake Crater. MEDA also measures gusts of wind at about 10 miles per second.
“We are excited to see that MEDA is working well,” said Manuel de la Torre Juarez, MEDA’s deputy principal investigator at NASA’s Southern California Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “MEDA reports will provide a better picture of the environment near the surface. Data from MEDA and other instrumental experiments will reveal more pieces of the puzzles on Mars and help prepare for human research. We hope that its data will help make our design stronger and our missions safer. “
More on perseverance
The main goal of the Persistence of Mars mission is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the geology of the planet and the past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet and will be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rocks and regolith (broken rocks and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency), will send spacecraft to Mars to take these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Sustainability of Mars 2020 mission is part of NASA’s Moon-to-Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis’ missions to the moon to help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
JPL, which is operated for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, builds and manages the operations of the rover Perseverance.